Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested the Conservative government’s introduction of voter ID was an attempt at “gerrymandering” that has backfired against the Tories because it made it harder for older people to vote.
Rees-Mogg – who was the Commons leader who steered the legislation through parliament – said the photo-ID requirement “made it hard for our own voters” to cast their ballots and admitted the change had “upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
The Conservatives lost more than 1,000 councillors and control of 48 councils in England’s local elections, held earlier this month. During the speech, an activist invaded the stage to try and warn of “the fascist ideologies of senior” Tories.
In his address, Rees-Mogg accused Labour of gerrymandering by proposing to extend voting rights to some EU citizens living in the UK. He said this is “particularly silly”, continuing: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding that their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.
“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.
“It was done on trust, and the system worked. If there’s any problem in our system, it’s with postal votes, which don’t require voter ID.”
Rees-Mogg later told the BBC there was “no evidence that personation [the crime of voter fraud] was a serious problem”.
“There have been hardly any prosecutions or even any complaints in this country over decades.”
A protestor from Extinction Rebellion (XR) stormed the stage as Rees-Mogg began his speech at the National Conservatism Conference (NatCon) – that started in London today (May 15).
The XR member grabbed the microphone off the former minister and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re very nice people and I’m sure you are fantastic. I’d like to draw your attention to a few characteristics of fascism…”
In a tweet XR said its disruption of NatCon “is calling out the fascist ideologies of senior cabinet members and MPs.”
Rees-Mogg was not the only speaker to be interrupted by protestors on the first day of NatCon. Home secretary Suella Braverman’s speech was twice shouted down by other members of Extinction Rebellion who were similarly bundled out of the hall by security.
The protestors were led away to cheers from the sparse crowd at NatCon. Other speakers this week include Michael Gove, Lord Frost, Lord Hanna and emerging leaders of the Tory right, Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates. JD Vance, a US senator accused of promoting the white-supremacist “Great Replacement” theory is also booked to deliver a virtual speech at NatCon London 2023.
The Guardian’s deputy political editor Peter Walker tweeted that despite the roster of senior Conservative speakers, NatCon “isn’t a Tory party event. It’s a moveable annual gathering of low tax populist nationalism run by a [right-wing] US think tank.”